Thousands of dollars in court costs could be saved each year if businesses and individuals were more cautious in accepting checks, a Salt Lake detective said.
Salt Lake Police Detective Jerry Campbell said check fraud - forgeries, insufficient funds and closed and fictitious accounts - costs Utah taxpayers more than $3,000 every time a complaint is filed in court.But he said much of that cost is unnecessary because more careful identification procedures during check cashing could eliminate up to 90 percent of those cases.
Last year, Campbell investigated 711 check fraud cases ; his three colleagues handle a like number each year.
"Many business owners are very lax in checking for identification. Most places require two forms of identification, but a lot of people fail to write down the numbers," Campbell said.
Often, businesses don't bother to compare the signature on the check to the signature on the driver's license or they fail to compare the photo on the driver's license with the individual.
"I've purposely held my thumb over the photograph on my identification and I've never been asked once to remove it," Campbell said.
Businesses often keep a "bad-check" list at the register for instant referral, but it is seldom referred to.
"All they have to do is check, but they don't," Campbell said.
Often, the cashier has been instructed by the manager to get customers through business lines as quickly as possible, which cuts down on the amount of time for identification and verification.
When this happens, customers must pay the price as business owners try to recoup the loss by increasing product prices, Campbell said.
In the past, passing bad checks used to occur more often after the Christmas holiday season. However, Campbell said the crime now is governed by the economy - more bad checks are passed when times are financially hard.
Campbell, who has never lost a check case, said the person who passes bad checks is just as likely to be a woman as a man and is most likely between 20 to 40 years of age.
Like many crimes, Campbell said check fraud is often drug-related.
"About 99 percent of all crimes are drug-related, but in the case of check forgeries, it's 100 percent," Campbell said. "They've just got to get enough money for another shot and they don't care how they get it."